Civic Engagement at Temple Beth-El

Posted on September 16, 2020 by Liz and Dave Cohen

TBE’s Civic Engagement Team has been hard at work organizing to reach out to our temple family and beyond to assure that we all have the information we need to vote safely and on time in the Nov. 3 election. Our work is part of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC)’s Every Voice, Every Vote Civic Engagement Campaign; we are among hundreds of congregations across the country doing this work.

We have three subcommittees following the three areas of the RAC’s campaign:


Our goal is to make Temple Beth-El a 100 percent voting congregation. We’ll help you confirm that you’re registered and answer any questions. If you’re a first-time voter, have moved since you last voted, changed your name, or haven’t voted in several years, you may need to register and we’ll help as needed.

This year all registered New Jersey voters will receive mail-in ballots. RAC-NJ has created a video detailing the how-tos. We will also be reaching out to support you through this process and to urge you to get your ballot in early. We will have opportunities to gather virtually to build community, answer questions, and cheer the congregation on to seeing all eligible voters casting their vote safely. This is a nonpartisan effort, and is all about exercising our right to vote. Email Beth Lavranchuk at if you would like to help.


Many states have created barriers to voting, especially for communities of color, and the RAC has partnered with Center for Common Ground’s Reclaim Our Vote Campaign to remove these stumbling blocks. Through this nonpartisan program, our TBE committee members have been writing postcards to give voters in states with a high percentage of low propensity voters the information needed to assure they know where and when to vote. We have optional Zoom letter-writing parties (see eblast for details). We plan to do Zoom Textbanking as well. To help, email Liz Cohen at


In 2018, only 25 percent of eligible voters ages 18-25 voted in the fall election. Our youth-led TBE group is reaching out to our young adult members to help us get to 100 percent. Outreach to extended family and community is also encouraged. Contact Jacki Skole at if you are interested in joining the effort.

We invite you to participate in any of these efforts. They are a great way to connect with our community from home.

Please reach out to our chairs or to the temple office to volunteer.


Liz and Dave Cohen


RAC-NJ Celebrates Its Launch

A record 400+ attendees tuned in to the official virtual launch of RAC-NJ, the state advocacy arm of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) on Aug. 6. This marks the formal transition of Reform Jewish Voice of NJ to a professionally staffed RAC state project. This means that our voices will be even stronger and more impactful as our TBE congregational team joins in continued Advocacy Days and other actions for social justice.

In the launch, leaders reviewed our shared story of our experiences as Reform Jews: of the pandemic, economic turmoil, and calls for racial justice. The Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer of Salvation and Social Justice gave a stirring review of racial disparities in New Jersey and the work that needs to be done to address them. New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way shared lessons learned from the July primary election about conducting safe voting during the pandemic. And Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the RAC, called us to action. You can view the launch at

For us at TBE, that call to action includes:

Join TBE’s Civic Engagement Team as part of the RAC Every Voice Every Vote Civic Engagement Campaign (see accompanying article below).

Join our congregational team at TBE, to get updates, calls to action, and participate in the work of RAC NJ together.

Join the RAC NJ Research/Issue Identification Team that will be working in the coming months to understand the top issues/needs for pursuing racial and economic justice in New Jersey, identifying who is working on these issues, and deciding how RAC-NJ should shape our campaign to have the most positive impact.

The launch also introduced Lead Organizer Sarah Blaine. Sarah brings great legal and advocacy skills, knowledge of NJ issues and power structures, and a lifetime of Reform Jewish engagement. Her passion for Jewish social justice work began with her summer at Mitzvah Corps, where her roommate was Rabbi Elisa Koppel (formerly our assistant rabbi and youth director at TBE)!

For questions about RAC NJ or how to get involved, please email Liz Cohen at

In this time of challenge and uncertainty, it is comforting to come together to act on our Jewish values, bringing more justice, compassion, and wholeness to our state.


Liz Cohen

RAC-NJ Leadership Team

Originally published in the September-October 2020 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.